As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Friday, January 02, 2009

The Continuing Sadness In Gaza

Just so you're up to date, Israel has dropped a one-ton bomb on a top Hamas leader, killing him and 18 others. Today airstrikes are destroying homes and mosques, and they are massing lots of infantry and artillery at the border in preparation for a ground assault. Meanwhile, it's pretty clear that civilians are being killed and many more are threatened through either bombardment or the lack of resources.

There was no sign of a ceasefire on the seventh day of the conflict, in which at least 425 Palestinians have been killed and 2,000 wounded. Four Israeli civilians have been killed by Palestinian rockets fired from Gaza, which strike southern cities at random.

A United Nations agency said the civilian death toll in Gaza was over 25 percent of the total killed in the violence. A leading Palestinian human rights group put it at 40 percent.

Israel and Hamas are violating the laws of war by deliberately attacking civilians, which is why any cease-fire must apply to both sides. These are war crimes by definition.

Rocket attacks on Israeli towns by Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups that do not discriminate between civilians and military targets violate the laws of war, while a rising number of the hundreds of Israeli bombings in Gaza since December 27, 2008, appear to be unlawful attacks causing civilian casualties. Additionally, Israel's severe limitations on the movement of non-military goods and people into and out of Gaza, including fuel and medical supplies, constitutes collective punishment, also in violation of the laws of war.

"Firing rockets into civilian areas with the intent to harm and terrorize Israelis has no justification whatsoever, regardless of Israel's actions in Gaza," said Joe Stork, deputy director of Human Rights Watch's Middle East and North Africa division. "At the same time, Israel should not target individuals and institutions in Gaza solely because they are part of the Hamas-run political authority, including ordinary police. Only attacks on military targets are permissible, and only in a manner that minimizes civilian casualties."

It should be easy enough for any American politician concerned with the rule of law to say this, but it is not, as lawmakers of both parties remain in lockstep behind uncritical support of Israel. The public is divided on the subject and recognizes the contours of the debate. In official Washington, that is verboten.

Meanwhile, the strikes are meeting their expected objective - to bolster a Kadima/Labor victory in the next Israeli elections. The center-left parties have already gained relative to the Likud on the right. The question at this point is whether or not there's any difference.

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